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Simon Armitage’s elegy for the Great War

That's How The Light Gets In

The poppy

The poppy which Joseph Shaddick sent home

In these centennial days, evocations of the First World War in newspaper articles or TV and radio programmes can seem to follow familiar and well-worn paths.  But in this week’s Culture Show special on BBC 2, Simon Armitage came up with a commemoration that felt entirely original: his own poetic commentary on the war, using as his inspiration the stories of people whose lives were either ended or profoundly changed by it.  In The Great War: An Elegy, Armitage told seven unusual stories, closing each one with a new poem inspired by it.

Introducing the film, Armitage said:

A century ago this year, the First World War began. The Great War – but great only in its scale of catastrophe. Well over 700,000 British soldiers died in the bloodbath that followed. I don’t have a head for numbers – that statistic is incomprehensible. It’s about human beings – people who…

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The Hawthorn Halls (the exit edition)

Exhausted is probably an accurate description of my current state. Explorer Scout, George has just steered me around the Marsden Moor estate for a day out walking. In itself the walk was not too bad (long) but with the added blizzards and endless snow drifts my legs have now developed a peculiar leaden effect which seems to have been further aggravated by the hot bath. My cheeks have also suffered from the biting winds and developed that strange sun burnt feeling coupled with a bright red glow. Will and friend have just burst into spontaneous laughter after catching the human matchstick hobbling towards the bedroom whilst trying to hold onto a strategically placed towel and the last remnants of dignity. Only the wet clothes and boots give any clues that George also came along for the adventure. After demolishing a plate of food he has returned to his lair where he will remain plugged into the IPod until Top Gear or hunger begins.

This week has seen some excellent blogs. Firstly, Josephine Corcoran wrote a really honest piece titled, Reading, Writing, Rejections and Acceptance which kind of sums up the piece in its entirety. This is the type of blog that can really help anyone starting out in the strange world of poetry – rejection letters can be the loneliest so Josephine’s blog offers a kind of comfort to know it can happen to anyone. As further proof of this fact I would urge everyone to read the wonderful interview with Sam Riviere in the latest edition of The Rialto which includes a good insight into the editor’s thought process: yes, even Faber poets get the blues. You can read Josephine’s blog at

It was also great to see landscape photographer, Andy Hemingway re-release a number of his Peak District blogs on his new site at The folklore and history of the South Pennines makes excellent reading and offers another dimension to Andy’s photographs.

Whilst on photography blogs I would also recommend the entertaining and quite inspiring which includes blogger Richard’s collaborations with fellow blogger,

There’s also a number of equally great blogs which I’m really enjoying so will hopefully include links in future posts.

This week’s track found amongst the green leaves is, I’m afraid to say, a bit of a cheat. Filed under Sylvian from his excellent Sleepwalkers compilation it’s probably one of the most played tracks in the hall of four winds but, whilst searching the zero players, it was also found filed under Masakatsu. It seems that when searching for all things Sylvian, I’ve found this collaboration from the brilliant, Coieda album by the Japanese artist, Takagi Masakatsu, downloaded the track and promptly forgotten all about it until the re-discovery with Sleepwalkers.  

The reason for the inclusion is that I would urge you to listen to some of Masakatsu’s other work. It’s spellbinding and quite beautiful.

Listen and watch here:

All the best,


The Hawthorn Halls

At the bottom of my digital music library (ITunes) is a fact: somewhere hidden amongst the plastic and wires is 20.2 days of music. This currently equates to 6883 items, i.e. songs. Added to this there are also a number of songs (lots) that are currently dangling their feet from an imaginary cloud waiting for the celestial power of flesh and nail to zip them back to Dell.

It’s a slow process.

The fact that a majority of the collection is currently playing at rain makers is due, largely, to a catastrophic fault on the eight year old Dell earlier in the year. There had been some clues. The old box laptop had been coughing, spluttering and wheezing for sometime before lines began to appear across the screen; multicoloured effects that in some ways enhanced the hypnotic monochrome world of Word. Then the fatal day arrived. I pressed to start and waited for the familiar whirr and bleep. Nothing. The machine scratched at life: echoes of intelligence filtered out from within the plastic walls in the form of sounds that resembled a bicycle tyre on tarmac. After much tapping and shaking a soulless curser appeared, like a blind eye, and blinked from the top right hand corner amid the sea of blackness. I had to face the fact, Dell was gone. The machine had bowed out, declined its seat at the table and taken its leave.

With the death of Dell came a sudden realisation: back-up! In the old days there was always tomorrow and now yesterday, to quote Paul, seemed so far away. With the machine’s passing also went my email, documents, accounts (to show a loss, of course), contact lists, pictures (only work, fortunately), word documents and, most importantly, the music library or to give it its proper title, The Hawthorn Halls. There was also the liberation from social media which, for those of you who have recently received friend requests may have guessed, didn’t last too long.
The Hawthorn Halls had taken eight years to create. Not only that, after digitalising the hard goods, albums and CDs were placed into piles titled ‘Keeper’ or ‘EBay’. My purple seller star was suddenly beginning to seem like an expensive fashion accessory.

With the receipt of New Dell came the sudden realisation that all was not lost. During the festive period of 2011, Apple had managed (I must have been drunk) to get twenty plus pounds off me in return for a piece of cloud. Thank you, Apple. And so began the laborious task of re-down loading the collection. I am approximately half way through so have had to pay for another year of cloud busting but, hey ho.

With the creation of The Hawthorn Halls comes the knowledge that there are songs and artists who I either can’t recall or who I haven’t listened to, ever. So to put things right, I’ve reversed my preferences and started the game of zero roulette. The intention is to share this fun and point you in the direction of an artist or band that I stumble across each week.

This week’s song, which was a single of the week (free) back in early 2009, is Sometime Around Midnight by The Airborne Toxic Event. Have a look at their website at It turns out the band are quite big in the States.

Now, how to back-up?

Hello World

Welcome to my blog; my new internet home.

It’s designed to be a space where I can share ideas, stories and information on new releases and publications. You may also get the odd photograph but that’s entirely down to whether I remember the camera.

The site is also a chance for me to publicise ‘The Walk’. This is The Cotton Grass Appreciation Society. Please see the Cotton Grass page for more information.


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